Alimony is not ordered in every divorce in Texas, and it is not automatic. But, a spouse can request alimony, and a judge will review whether it is appropriate in your situation. In this case, the higher-earning spouse might have to pay alimony for years to come.
Alimony, or as it’s called in Texas, spousal support, is a legal obligation where a spouse provides financial support to the other. It’s either ordered to start before or after the divorce is finalized. It can often put a serious strain on your financial status, and you might have to make some big lifestyle and budget changes.
If you are separated from your spouse and are about to start the divorce process or are currently in the middle of a divorce, you may be looking for information about how to avoid alimony. I will provide information on how to formulate the best possible case to avoid or at least reduce owed spousal support that you would be expected to pay. First, let’s review how spousal support is determined in Texas.
How is Alimony/Spousal Support Determined in Texas?
Normally, a spouse will request alimony – or spousal support – when he or she makes less money than the other and cannot live financially independently without the other spouse’s support. If your ex-spouse does not have enough to cover basic living expenses for themselves and children (if you have children), the court could order you to pay alimony.
Spousal support may also be requested when one spouse does not have a college degree or has been out of the workforce for a significant period of time raising children or caring for an ailing parent. In this case, a spouse might feel deserving of compensation after sacrificing his or her own job or education to support the family.
Because spousal support is not automatic, the court will decide whether one spouse is entitled to receive the spousal support and review the other spouse’s ability to actually pay the alimony. The judge will ultimately consider the earning capacity of both parties and other key factors before making a determination.
Financial Factors That Affect Alimony
There are additional income or asset-related factors that a judge will weigh in the decision.
- Liquid assets for each spouse (e.g., how much money in savings and checking accounts)
- Debts or liabilities that need to be paid down (e.g. high credit card expenses)
- Current income level compared to expected living expense costs
- The division of property and the new living conditions for each spouse
- The necessary time for your ex-spouse to obtain education and training to find work and become financially independent
- Payments of child support from one spouse to another
If either of you could be earning much more than what you currently are earning, the judge might consider this when determining the award. In this case, the award will not be determined by the current earnings but by potential earnings.
Non-Financial Factors a Judge Will Consider
While income and earnings potential for both spouses are the primary factors a judge will consider, additional factors could influence the decision.
- Relationship history, including allegations of abuse or neglect.
- Each spouses’ health and age.
- The duration of the marriage.
- Whether one or both spouses plan to re-marry soon.
- Disabilities of a child/elderly parent who needs full-time care and prevents your ex-spouse from being employed.
How to Avoid Alimony or Reduce the Amount
When trying to avoid paying spousal support to your ex-spouse — or at least reduce the amount you will be obligated to pay — you must show that circumstances have substantially changed, either in your life or your spouse’s. Certain changes may include:
- You experienced an involuntary loss of your job or a significant reduction in wages.
- You have a disability or illness that prevents you from working.
- Your ex-spouse is capable of working and becoming financially independent.
- Your ex-spouse currently works and is on the path to higher income.
- Your ex-spouse is cohabiting with a new partner or is on the path to being re-married.
A judge will not reduce spousal support based on small changes. Therefore, the circumstances will need to be significant in nature. You will need to provide documents that detail financial information, including paystubs, tax returns, income and expense statements, bank account statements, and other relevant financial documents.
One way to avoid alimony is to ask a judge to evaluate your spouse’s fitness to work. If the supported spouse has the necessary skills and education to get a well-paying job, you can request that the judge do a vocational evaluation. This will also provide you with insight into how much your spouse can potentially earn by obtaining employment in their area of expertise or based on their educational background.
In other circumstances, some spouses look to receive spousal support even if they don’t need the financial support to cover their basic living expenses. The supported spouse may have a separate savings account, inheritance, or trust fund. Therefore, their employment status might not affect their ability to live independently.
It’s important that you have good records to help make a strong argument to avoid alimony or reduce the amount. The key is to produce compelling evidence and relevant records that support your claim that spousal support is not necessary, applicable, or reasonable in your divorce case.
Find Support from a Divorce Attorney in Texas
Working with an expert family law attorney should be part of your strategy to avoid or reduce spousal support paid to the other spouse. When your assets and financial future are on the line, you want someone in your corner who will work diligently to help you build a strong case to steer clear of alimony or reduce payments to the absolute minimum amount possible.
If you’re looking to avoid alimony during a divorce, call me today to discuss your case. You can reach my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660. I help spouses in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County find success navigating legal divorce matters. Let’s get to work on your case!